The Coming of Meersha

By Baby Fire Wolf

 

 

This is the tale of one lioness. Just one, who brought forth a greater part in the royal pride. An anecdote, taking place under King Ahadi's reign, but joined in the royal pride beneath the Kingdom ruled by Mufasa.

 

 

Part I: The cub

 

 

OK, so there's a King named Mufasa. He has a son called Simba who is the cub of a lioness named Sarabi. But later, Simba becomes a mate with a lioness named Nala, who had grown up in the same pride...Now, either they're half brother and sister, or cousins...so, whatever...But where did all the other lionesses in the royal pride come from? They couldn't all have been results of inbreeding...could they? Anyway, this is a story I wrote about just one lioness who had joined the royal pride. Each lioness should have a story of her own about how she came to be in the Pride Rock Pride, but this is only one.

In my fan-fictions, I try to make them, "Lion Kingy"...you know, PG rated, in a way. Alas I cannot get past the dying of generations, (old age, murders even, etc.) and other things such as hunting, eating, mating, and more. But I try to be light in all the fan-fictions that carry on each generation (for example, TLK V or TLK IX). It's the other short stories on the side that I find I can use more of the "non Lion Kingy" ways. What I'm trying to say is, for this story, as well as any other side stories, there might be strong use of language or violent acts, ya know, stuff like that.

Anyway, hope you enjoy!

 

Note: The characters Mufasa, Sarabi, Simba, Rafiki, Scar, Nala, Timon, Pumbaa, Zazu, Ed, Bonzai, Shenzi, Kiara, Kovu, Zira, Nuka and Vitani have been created by Disney. The characters Meersha, Kasha, Banjija, Kinara, Ashuma, Bayna, Lusala, Pashi, Chusuka, Toga, Tambi, Shashi, Dashu, Kuda, Tanda, Helalu, Gatu, Tokto, Shap, Daba, Naynana, Bondu, Kiku, Chaska, Gali, Unaro, Natira, Ahadgna, Yawnda, Gonra, Bahashi, Ignu, Chioke, Kumba, Uhawku, Hawkna, Kikaru, Zarazu, Izegbe and Rombu have been created by me and are not allowed to be used without my permission. I appolgize if any are the same in other fan-fictions, so email me, or I can do nothing about it. Any comments, then email me as well.

 

Warning: You obviously won't get this if you haven seen Disney's The Lion King, (you should also watch The Lion King II: Simba's Pride and The Lion King 1 1/2 (A.K.A III).

 

Parts

I The Cub

Chapters

1. New Ones

2. Meersha's Name

3. Lions

5. Mud and Trouble

5. Benighted Water

6. Leader Stress

7. First Carcass

8. One Eyed-Freak

9. The Rogues' Revelation

10. Fleeing

II The Adolescent

Chapters

11. Deformed Elephants

12. A Cheetah's Weakness

13. The Dawn of Adolescence

14. Cubs Once More

15. A Free Ride

16. Because of Study

17. An Old Face

18. A New Journey to Start

19. Captured

20. Izegbe

21. Two of the Drie-Leeu

22. The Deal

23. A Hunt

24. What was Left

25. Killing the Killer

III The Adult

Chapters

26. A New Meersha

27.

28.

29.

30.

31.

 

My Characters

Meersha (Daughter of Kinara and Ashuma, litter-sister of Kasha, Banjija, half-sister -younger- of Chusuka)

Banjija (Son of Kinara and Ashuma, litter-brother of Kasha and Meersha, half-brother -younger- of Chusuka)

Kasha (Son of Kinara and Ashuma, litter-brother of Banjija and Kasha, half-brother -younger- of Chusuka)

Kinara (Lioness of White-Feather Pride, mother of Meersha, Kasha, Banjija and Chusuka)

Ashuma (Leader of the White-Feather Pride)

Bayna (Lioness of White-Feather Pride, mother of Lusala and Pashi)

Lusala (Daughter of Bayna and Ashuma, sister of Pashi)

Pashi (Daughter of Bayna and Ashuma, sister of Lusala)

Chusuka (Lioness of White-Feather Pride, daughter of Kinara and Tambi, sister -elder- of Kasha, Banjija and Meersha, mother of Toga)

Toga (Son of Chusuka and Ashuma)

Dashu (Once leader of White-Feather Pride, father of Kinara)

Tambi (Once leader of White-Feather Pride, father of Chusuka)

Shashi (Lioness-shaman of White-Feather Pride)

Kuda (Lioness of White-Feather Pride)

Tanda (Lioness of White-Feather Pride)

Helalu (Lioness of White-Feather Pride)

Gatu (Lion cub in White-Feather Pride)

Tokto (Lion cub in White-Feather Pride)

Shap (Lion cub in White-Feather Pride)

Daba (Lion cub in White-Feather Pride)

Naynana (Lion cub in White-Feather Pride)

Bondu (Lion cub in White-Feather Pride)

Kiku (Lion cub in White-Feather Pride)

Chaska (Rogue lion)

 

Part I:

The Cub

 

 

I

New Ones

The sun was shining high as a lioness poked her head carefully out of a den in the swaying, yellow savannah. Her pink nose twitched as she sniffed the dry air and her ears kept perked. For a few minutes, she examined the enviornment, before climbing out and padding quietly around. She sniffed the ground and the crisp blades of the long grass, feeling more confident at the fresh scent of near territory marking. The lioness continued to examine the surrounding land before coming back and looking inside the den once more, smiling down at three little fur balls of gold. They looked hopefull at her but she shook her head and replied warmly to their questioning expressions, "Not yet, my loves." The litter mewed in protest, but she hissed once, and they all fell silent. She turned back around and headed straight for the middle of the territory. Atop a near hill sat a great lion, his gold/red mane swaying freely in the wind. She climbed the Great Knoll - it was called just that - and quickly and nuzzled her mate.

"Are they out? Is it time?" asked the lion eagerly, turning his giant head to look at the lioness.

She shook her head and exclaimed gently, "Have patience, Ashuma. They have yet to come." and she purred.

He nodded. "I've gone through this before..." Ashuma heaved an anxious sigh. "And every time I feel they should come too soon, Kinara."

"It's all right. A good father should be like that." she exclaimed with a grin.

Before long, another lioness turned up, leading but two small lions behind her. Ashuma jumped up and cried, "The first ones out!"

At this abrupt shout, the lioness crouched protectively in front of her young ones, hissing out and growling warningly, fur bristling. The leader shook his mane, and couldn't help a chill snake up his spine and the fur on his back stand slightly. He growled an apology and waited. The slim lioness of pale yellow soon accepted, and he walked slowly over to her and the other two, down the giant hill and on flat land once more. Kinara watched her leader go to the other mate and greet her with a warm, grumbling roar before picking up the scent of the cubs. He sniffed them both and licked each one, finding out they were each female. Proudly he stood over his offspring.

The lioness laid down and began to groom both, just as a third female came up from a near hill, one small cub in her mouth and four others toddling near her, nervously. Ashuma - taking more caution for his first impression - carefully padded over and greeted them all into the world.

"He does that all the time," the first lioness said annoyed, as Kinara came over to her and her cubs.

"He is just anxious each time." she exclaimed, with a chuckle.

"Ashuma has done it two times...this is the third now. He does it each time to me."

"And each time you're the first one out, Bayna."

Bayna shrugged, after grooming her second cub and asked, "Where are yours? Waiting for the last moment again, I see."

"As always," Kinara said, with a grin. "Actually," she then whispered, leaning down to Bayna's ear as it twitched. "If this is Ashuma's last time in bearing cubs here, then we must take extra procaution."

Indeed Ashuma had been leader of this pride for a few years now, and this was the third time he gave cubs to his mates. He was almost over his prime and zenith, but he still remained buff and strong, looking somewhat like a cross between Mufasa and Simba. Bayna nodded, watching her little ones play as they tumbled over each other, mewing and meowing.

"They're beautiful, Bayn. What do you call them?" asked Kinara.

"I call this one," she nosed the first who came over to suckle. "Lusala. And the other, Pashi."

Kinara nodded.

"What of yours, Kinara? What have you named them?"

"The first two were males. I named them Kasha and Banjija. The last was female, and because these litters are probably Ashuma's last, as he is getting old, I will let her father name her."

Pashi soon joined her sister as her mother nodded.

"When do you think you shall take them out?" Bayna then questioned, curiously.

Kinara shrugged. "I'm not sure. Probably within a couple suns. But look around you, lioness! More than half the pride's mothers have not yet let their cubs out."

Bayna sighed. "Yup. I'm just an early one. Almost as excited as Ashuma."

"And why shouldn't you be?"

Bayna smiled.

For the rest of the day, more cubs popped their heads out of the dens for the first time. Another sun and the rest were out. All except Kinara's cubs.

II

Meersha's Name

On the third sun, Kinara found herself near the Great Knoll, where many lionesses watched their little ones play and bask out in the sun.

"Cub?" a small voice said as she looked down to find a cub in front of her. It was Pashi.

"No, not yet," Kinara answered, smiling. She looked up at Bayna then, who was grooming Lusala upon a flat rock.

"Kinara, for Heaven's sake, the whole White-Feather Pride has let their little ones outside." Bayna exclaimed. "When are you to let yours out?"

Kinara sighed, then nodded and said, "OK, OK. I guess you're right. I'll go get them."

"Good, 'cause my little ones are anxious to play with yours." She chuckled as Kinara trotted off.

After turning right, on the other side of the hill, Kinara stopped in front of a silghtly smaller and darker lioness, though her face resembled something of Kinara. "Chusuka!" she cried in delight.

"Mother," the one called Chusuka purred, and they nuzzled. "I'd like you to meet Toga."

Kinara leaned down to sniff a tiny, brown lion cub who sat at his mother's front paws. He shied back, though.

"Toga, this is your grandmother, Kinara." Chusuka told her little one.

"Well, Toga, nice meeting you." Kinara said. "Would you like to meet your aunt and uncles?"

"Mother, I'm sorry. But Toga was just going to get his bath and then nurse."

Kinara quickly exclaimed, "No need to be sorry, my daughter! A cub needs what he needs."

"But don't let me miss my brothers and sis," Kinara's oldest daughter added with a wink.

Her mother nodded before continuing to the northwest. "Ashuma," she said as she passed the leader. "Come. Follow me."

For a while, the lioness and lion traveled out near the borders of the large territory. Only a half hour later they came to a small den, surrounded by rocks.

"Ashuma," Kinara stated as she sat down in front of it, staring at her mate. "There is something special about this litter. Please, I'd like you to name the female."

Ashuma blinked in surprise and tilted his head slightly, like a cub. "What is it? Why would I do that and not you?"

"Because I already named my sons."

After a moment's hesitation, Ashuma asked, "Kinara, what is it?"

"Huh?"

"Are you all right? Is there something you want to tell me?" She shook her head, which just made the lion growl, "Kin, tell me. As mate and leader, we must have honosty between each other. Now spill it."

Kinara sighed heavily. "Ashuma," she whispered, gravely. "I was the last in the White-Feather Pride to give birth, and in the last litter born, the female was the last who came out into the world. Now I find this special."

"How so?"

"Because, Ashuma...my leader...I fear that she will be your last cub...ever..."

Ashuma blinked and couldn't help his head from tilting once more, before he straightened up and chuckled. "I'm strong as steal!" And his claws extended as he churned the dirt with them. "Is that it, Kinara?" She nodded as he went on. "I shall name your cub, yet I see no reason for it. You're the mother, it is the law in our pride for the mother to name the cubs unless she is dead or if there is some special or important reason for it. I really think you are overreacting, though. But if you see it as this important..." and he bowed.

Kinara forced a weak smile on her face before stepping aside, letting Ashuma crawl into the den. He nuzzled the three, picking up the scents of them all.

"All right," he said, looking down at the middle fur ball, who stared back up at him with baby blue eyes. He chuckled, before continuing. "I shall call you...Meersha." and with no further thought, he licked the single female.

Ashuma climbed right back out and turned to Kinara. "The law has been broken." he stated.

She shook her head. "No...Like I said, this was important to me..."

He blinked, then nodded and Kinara crawled into the small dirt cave, only to come back out with a mouthfull of two cubs. Ashuma reached in with a giant paw and carefully pulled out the last, fragile lion.

"Mama!" it called in fright, scrambling from his father's claws and toddling after Kinara.

Ashuma didn't mind the fright in his son, but he carefully trailed behind, keeping an eye on the family.

"Who is this young one, Kinara?" he asked, watching the one toddle in front of him.

Kinara rolled her brown eyes as she sat her two down and looked at the one behind her. "That's Banjija. The other male is Kasha."

Suddenly, the lion leapt to her, knocking Banjija over as he passed him, and he began to nuzzle Kinara, which took her by surprise. "They are beautiful!" he exclaimed.

Kinara soon returned his words with a warm expression, and they licked each other...

An abrupt roar shot out from the distance. Quickly, Ashuma ran out toward the center of the territory where the pride was bound to be. Kinara stayed behind to hustle her cubs back into the den once more.

"Aw, Mama," cried Banjija. "We go outside-side?"

"No. Back inside. All of you." she ordered, nosing them into the den. "Stay here. I'll be right back."

With that, she ran off in the direction Ashuma had gone.

III

Lions

Before long, Kinara found herself with the other lionesses, who watched in horror as two younger males approached their leader.

"Who are you and what are you doing in our lands?" growled Ashuma, taking guard of his lionesses.

The pride seemed cubless, as all the young ones had been put back into their dens just moments ago.

One lion, who's head and body shape were the same as Kovu, stalked forward, heavy muscles moving beneath his wheat colored coat as his gray-brown mane waved in the mocking breeze. "We have come to take these lands." he answered with a crude voice.

"Over my dead body!" Ashuma blurted, outraged as his fur prickled and claws unsheathed themselves.

"Exactly." the darker of the two quickly replied. A smirk had grown on his wicked face, which showed itself on what would seem Scar's cranium.

With another roar, Ashuma dashed aside as the pair thrust themselves through the atmosphere at him. Hastily raising a giant paw, Ashuma smacked it down on the buffer of the two. The rogue's pained snarl was blanketed over by the hisses and growls of the encouraging lionesses.

"Mother," said someone from Kinara's right as she sat down. "What's happening?"

"They're rogue lions, Chusuka," exclaimed Kinara gently, yet her desperate eyes did not detach themselves from the quarrel. "They've come to take control of the pride."

"Why can't we do something to help?" the younger lioness snapped with a strained voice.

"It's not that easy, my daughter. It's the way of life. It's nature's law. We must let only the leading male fight the attempting rogue or rogues."

"But it's so awful!"

Kinara quickly nuzzled Chusuka, putting a paw around her in comfort.

The fight carried on; loose chunks of grass and dirt flew out everywhere as the lions tackled each other. Blood was lightly shed, and struggling roars filled the air, like the exact music used from the wilderness when there was a brawl.

Kinara squinted, attempting to hold her tears as she let her claws gently kneed the ground. It was hard enough not to leap out and help her mate as she felt her stomach tighten into a knot. The rest of the pride snarled out for their leader, raising their forepaws to sweep the air.

Finally, Ashuma gave one last roar before jumping on one of their backs and briefly burying his teeth into the skin, only to rip out skin and blood, along with a part of the lion's mane. A cry of agony escaped the stranger's saliva and blood crusted lips, and the two rogues were sent off running with Ashuma on their tails.

Kinara heaved a sigh of relief as the White-Feather Pride roared and cheered out. For now, experience triumphed over youth, though none of the lionesses could put this memory aside...What if it happened tomorrow, when Ashuma was even older? Or the next day? One thing was for sure: it would happen in the near future.

"He did it!" one lioness suddenly cried in joy. "He beat them!"

"I knew he could," someone else exclaimed with a grin.

"They're gone, Mother," Chusuka said, smiling.

"Yes. But they'll come back." Kinara replied with an inward nod as she looked strongly, but hurt, at her daughter.

"Huh?"

"They'll come back. And eventually they'll conquer him...and we'll be theirs."

Chusuka blinked in astonishment, before she hissed, "Mother! How dare you? Don't say that!"

Kinara flinched, her own words slowly weakening her soul, as well as the outrage in her daughter's tone. "Chusuka...it always happens."

"No!"

"It happened with your father."

"What?" Chusuka whispered in shock.

"Your father was Tambi. You were the last of Tambi's, just as your new sister Meersha, was the last of Ashuma's...Your father was chased off by a younger lion...by Ashuma...and Ashuma himself will be in the near future."

"You're lying! My father wasn't Tambi! He was..." Chusuka trailed off, and her eyes widened.

"Trust me. Tambi was your father."

"This can't be," the younger lioness suddenly sobbed, only to bury her face into Kinara's fur.

"Why is this such a shock, Chusuka?" uttered her mother, but Chusuka did not answer.

Before long, one older lioness leapt atop the great knoll and roared out, "We must set up a nersery for our little ones...else I fear for them. Those rogues...they will return some sun. We want to be ready."

The pride murmered to each other in agreement, and the lionesses began to seperate, scrambling off to check on their cubs.

"Chusuka," Kinara then whispered. "You might not like it. None of us do, but it is the way of life. It is a good thing. Otherwise there could be inbreeding."

Chusuka's nod surprised Kinara, though, and her daughter stood, wiping away one of her own tears with a forepaw. "Does that mean Ashuma has to leave?"

"Some day..."

Just then, Ashuma turned up.

"Chusuka, go. Check on little Toga." Kinara ordered, and again, her daughter nodded before taking off to the east. "Ashuma, are you OK?" she then queried with concern, turning to her mate.

"Yeah. I'm fine. Those jerks didn't stand a chance!" he answered, proudly. "I told ya, I'm strong as steal."

"Ashuma, go to Shashi and get some medicine for those wounds," she adviced, wearily gazing at the many bruises, cuts and blood splots which decorated his warn body.

"How are the cubs?" he quickly asked.

"Fine." was all the lioness could muster, before taking off to the west to ensure her answer.

"Mama," said someone later on, and Kinara crawled into the den, laying down and letting her body curl around her cubs.

"Yes, Kasha?"

"Why we no go out?"

"Because it's too dangerous out there right now."

"When can we go out then?" the girl suddenly mewed, hopping up. "I wanna go out now!"

"Yeah, me too!" Banjija cried.

Kinara shook her head. "Maybe when the sun rises...at dawn, perhaps..."

The cubs all huffed and their mother laughed, before huffing mockingly back.

 

~~~

A week later, Kinara could be found, leading her cubs out from the den and to the pride.

"We finally get t' get out," said Kasha happily.

His voice was more mature, as was his slightly bigger body, and his grammer was noiticibly advanced.

"Yeah, it's been forever, Mama! What took us so long? I mean, why'd you keep us in?" asked Banjija as he toddled under his mother. He, too, had grown.

Kinara sighed and replied with iritation, "You're out, aren't you? You should be greatful."

"Why?" asked Meersha, curiously.

She shook her head. "Just stay near me, my little ones."

Before long, they met up with the pride.

"Kinara! I see you finally let them out," exclaimed Shashi, the old, gold lioness who had been the one to announce the nersery.

"Yeah..." Kinara said and added, "After those rouges...we have to be very careful."

The older lioness laughed and said, "Well don't worry. Bayna's taking care of the cubs at the nersery. You might want to drop yours off."

"Good idea. Plus I've been wanting to speak with her...Oh and, Shashi,"

"Yeah?"

"What of Ashuma?"

"He's all right. I took care of his wounds. In fact, most should be healed by now, 'cept for a few scars."

Kinara nodded, before leading her cubs further east. The trio waddled under her, eyes wide and ears perked, as they had never seen another lion before. Shashi, the one which they now spotted, was obviously experienced, as her muscles looked used, bones seemed ached in trembling athiritus, and eyes were droopy with wrinkles below them. Of course, past the tattered ears, she seemed almost youthful in her own way, at least in spirit.

The elder couldn't help but chuckle at the young ones.

"Kin! You finally let them in the eyes of the pride!" called Bayna.

Just a couple minutes and a few pawsteps later, the family was in the east of the territory, where several lionesses thrived. The cubs grew nervous and so huddled closer together, as their mother smiled at her friend. Bayna was lying down, letting a small cub suckle at her stomach.

"Toga," Kinara smiled. "Why don't you go play with your aunt and uncles?"

Toga looked up and mewed, "Are you my mama's mama?"

"Yes I am, little one. Now, go play if you're done suckling."

They were at a place where the ground sunk slightly as the adults sat on the edge of it, above the cubs who played in this small bowl of land. Toga nodded and he scrambled back into the nersery. Kasha, Banjija and Meersha were hesitant at first, but with Kinara's constant nosing and proding, they toddled after to meet the other cubs.

"I knew you'd be the nersery guard and nurse," Kinara exclaimed, smiling at Bayna.

"You know me all too well, Kin." and she rolled over to paw up at her friend playfully. "I love cubs."

"Don't we all...Listen, Bayna." Kinara then said, leaning down and lowering her voice. "I've seen the rouges stalk us. They're always at the borders these days."

"Not only them,"

"Huh?" she asked, surprised.

"There's another rogue who seems to have made his home near the western edges of our pride's territory." Kinara gasped, but Bayna went on before further reaction. "And there's also a pregnant lioness traveling with a young lion. They might take us over as well...I guess word's gotten out of Ashuma's lack of youth."

Kinara nodded gravely. "First Dashu, then Tambi, now Ashuma."

"It's all right, Kin."

"But our cubs...I mean I knew my sons would have to go some time, but now I don't even know if I get to keep Meersha."

"Look," Bayna exclaimed, sitting up and watching the cubs with her friend, tail swishing in the grass, expression distant. "If Ashuma is able to keep us until the cubs are adolescents, then you know Meersha can stay. And if he's able to keep up even after that, then perhaps Kasha and Banjija can stay as well...if they're willing to take over the pride."

"But," Kinara said, but Bayna interrupted. "And," she went on. "If they must leave, then maybe one sun they shall come back and take over, which would be even better. You know, when you stop producing cubs yourself."

Kinara nodded once more, feeling better at her sister's reasurence.

"I'm sure they'd find their own pride, though," she then said. "Probably far from here."

Bayna rolled over on her side as a couple cubs came to suckle hungrily at her stomach. Before long, more joined.

"Mind lending a paw?" Bayna asked, giggling now. "Or a belly, I mean,"

Kinara laughed and laid down, allowing the others, as well as her own to nurse, assured by her friend's sudden calmness.

 

IV

Mud and Trouble

When the cubs were older, they would be found outside much of the time; playing and pouncing each other and the rest of the little lions, and taking naps, being groomed and watched over by anyone who was at the nersery at the time. Soon they were nearly twice the size than they were when first introduced to the outside world.

Meersha was a small puff ball, but a wild and strong one at that. She had a beautiful golden coat, the same as Simba - if anything, she looked like a girl Simba. Brave and mischievous as him, too. Her eyes were still a baby blue and developing a perminant color, but she - more like Nala - was the best at wrestling, and so easily pinned her brothers and other cubs. Usually, her playfullness ended her in trouble, having pounced someone while one of the elders were telling a story, or having been discovered rolling about in a near puddle of mud.

Kasha, the oldest, looked much like his mother. Like her, he was slim and tall, especially for a male cub. His eyes had already turned an unusual crimson-brown, and the tuff of his tail was the same mixture. This little one, blanketed in thin, golden fur, could always be seen as the leader of the trio. He was the one to hault a fight in its tracks. To stop an argument before it started. Of course, most of the time one could and would easily spot the blanket of his presumptions that so wrapped him up at the thought of being the future leader of the White-Feather Pride.

Banjija was a brownish gold, but resembled his father in many other ways. The most distinct feature of his physical form were his ears; both circlular, but instead, ending in a strange point where a few red strands would stick up in the air, making him look similar to a bob cat or lynx. Indeed his personality was different than that of a normal lion's. Like his sister, he caused much of his own trouble. Unlike Meersha, though, he was keen to getting his own way, even if that meant cracking the rules of his parents, and the pride itself. A troublemaker, but one who loved it, and was generally not sorry as his sister usually was.

Normally, the siblings would be found together in a game of tag or a fun wrestle, but all three had made friends with the other cubs as well.

"How far d' ya think it goes?" asked Pashi, who had become one of Meersha's best friends.

Lusala shook her head and suggested, "Why don't you stick your paw in and find out?"

Squealing, the little cub leapt back replying, "Ah, no!"

Lusala as well, had been a great friend of Meersha's. If Meersha wasn't with her brothers, then she was most likely with the twins. In fact, it was that day that Banjija and Kasha were off with their mother and another cub named Bondu, at a water hole in the south. Meersha decided to stay with her friends, scrambling around in play, just a few yards north of the Great Knoll. A lioness called Kuda was watching them, while the twins' mother kept at her spot in the nersery. It was a rare moment for any of the cubs to move from that nersery actually, even with a protector, and just for a temporary time.

"Please," Lusala had begged her mother.

"Yeah, please? We won't go far," Pashi had gone on.

Meersha had said to her own mother, "And Kuda said she would watch over us."

Bayna sighed as Kinara looked curiously at her.

"Weeell..." Bayna had finally thought aloud.

"I think it'd be all right, don't you? Then I could take the boys out to the water hole they've been wanting to go to." Kinara had replied to the word.

Having overheard the conversation, Banjija and Kasha scrambled to the edge of the nersery where their mother stood, Banjija pushing over a cub as they did so.

"Yeah!" he had cried. "Please? And Bondu gets t' come, too!"

The parents had given in, but that was then. Now the females were romping in the savannah's overgrown yellow and gold blades, laughing and meowing, before stopping yet again at the mud puddle they had been at before.

"C'mon, let's roll around in it!" Meersha then suggested.

"Oh no," Pashi said. "I don't want to get-"

But she was interrupted as a big ball of wet dirt had splattered in her face. As her sister sputtered and coughed it out, Lusala just laughed, rolling onto her back and sweeping the air with her paws. Meersha smirked at what she had done.

"Pff! Yuk!" the cub cried, managing to shake the rest off her face. "Why'd ya do that?" she growled.

"Because," Meersha simply said as she shrugged, looking to the puddle again.

"Now let's see how far it goes," Lusala then exclaimed, sitting up, the laughter now absent.

As she glared playfully, Pashi aburptly took a paw to splash the mud up at Meersha's face.

"Take that!" she yelled, and Lusala was howling with laughter once more.

"Ah!" Meersha cried, before leaping into the puddle completely.

"What are you three doing?" they heard a voice call, jerking their heads up.

Kinara was walking over to them with Bondu and her two sons trailing behind her. Kuda had lifted her skull as her gaze fell heavily on the lioness, and her face looked worried as she stood.

"Mud!" screeched Meersha's mother after a loud gasp, and the explanation caused Kuda to flinch, her expression now hurt as she padded over to her friend and half-sister.

"I am sorry," she uttered, ears low. "I had been dozing off when..."

"It's all right," Kinara quickly replied, shaking her head, before she looked up at Meersha. "She knows she's not supposed to be getting dirty anyway."

Meersha looked almost the same as Kuda, before she slowly walked over to Kinara, auds, tail and cranium lowered. "Aww, c'mon, Mama. It was nothin'." she said, cheekily.

Banjija and Bondu just snickered at her, and she returned them with a glare. Kasha sat down, a look of strong pride on his face as he curled his tail around himself. Why pride? Perhaps because he was the one following the rules, and his younger sister had not.

Kinara raised an unseen brow as her daughter looked up at her, baby blue eyes showing innocence, except of course, the muddied coat.

"All right. Lusala, Pashi, come. We'll take you back to your mother for a bath and you, too, Meersha...Let's get back to the nersery," she stated, nodding to the south where the Great Knoll was, and the nersery itself.

As Bondu and Banjija followed, they seemed disappointed that Kinara had let Meersha go off so easily.

Kind of a boring chapter, I know, but I had to add someting to their cubhood.

 

V

Benighted Water

One sun, when the three siblings were growling and meowing, rolling around and batting at one another, Kasha squealed, "Can't catch me!"

"Wanna bet?" Meersha replied, excitedly as she leapt from a large rock, landing on her brother and they tumbled around sideways. "Ha! Got'ch ya again!" she cried, standing over her brother trumphantly.

"Pinned again by your own sister!" Banjija laughed as he pounced from a near tuff of golden grass.

"Yeah? Well you try pinning her!" Kasha snapped back.

Meersha only giggled as she scrambled off her brother and began to charge at the other one.

She was a small puff ball, but a wild and strong one at that. Meersha had a beautiful golden coat, the same as Simba - if anything, she looked like a girl Simba. Brave and mischievous as him, too. Her eyes were still a baby blue and developing a perminant color, but she - more like Nala - was the best at wrestling, and so easily pinned her brothers and other cubs. Usually, her playfullness ended her in trouble, having pounced someone while one of the elders were telling a story, or having been discovered rolling about in a near puddle of mud.

Kasha, the oldest, looked much like his mother. Like her, he was slim and tall, especially for a male cub. His eyes had already turned an unusual crimson-brown, and the tuff of his tail was the same mixture. This little one, blanketed in thin, golden fur, could always be seen as the leader of the trio. He was the one to hault a fight in its tracks. To stop an argument before it started. Of course, most of the time one could and would easily spot the blanket of his presumptions that so wrapped him up at the thought of being the future leader of the White-Feather Pride.

Banjija was a brownish gold, but resembled his father in many other ways. The most distinct feature of his physical form were his ears; both circlular, but instead, ending in a strange point where a few red strands would stick up in the air, making him look similar to a bob cat or lynx. Indeed his personality was different than that of a normal lion's. Like his sister, he caused much of his own trouble. Unlike Meersha, though, he was keen to getting his own way, even if that meant cracking the rules of his parents, and the pride itself. A troublemaker, but one who loved it, and was generally not sorry as his sister usually was.

The three were playing near the southern borders of the territory. Luckily their mother was near by, basking in the sun alongside Bayna and Chusuka - whos' cubs were back at the nersery - and a cubless lioness named Tanda.

"I'm surprised you let your cubs out this far," commented Tanda, tail swishing in the overgrown grass.

"Yeah, especially 'cause of the rogues," agreed Bayna as her ears twitched.

Kinara rolled her eyes as Chusuka nodded. "I remember when you wouldn't let me out of your sight," she recalled.

"Oh c'mon, they're right over there. And they're in my sight." Kinara growled, a tone of annoyance overlapping any warmth in her voice right then.

Those few yards away, down a small hill, the cubs continued to romp and play, kicking and pawing at each other with an ocassional nip. It was Banjija who then whispered something to his brother, and the two nodded. Before Meersha could react, they bounded away, their cackles filling the air. She snarled and ran after, only to see each of them sitting upon a flat rock, near yet another hill - or small cliff was more like it, since the land behind the rock dropped straight down a few feet.

"Can't get us!" she heard Kasha call as he stuck his tongue out, blowing a rasbery.

"Yeah, slow poke!" Banjija meowed out.

Huffing, she abruptly leapt, only to fly right passed as they each ducked. The cub went tumbling through the air, down the back of the cliff behind the rock that her two brothers had been on. Before anything else happened, her face met the ground with a hard smack. Getting up, she staggered with blurred vision, only to shake it - as well as the throbbing sensation in her skull - away and look clearly up at her siblings who were now bawling with laughter, rolling over on the rock. Once more, she huffed and started away, further south, leaving Kasha and Banjija behind as she reflected on hurt feelings with a few mumbles.

"Oh, c'mon!" yelled Banjija. "Don't be such a zebra!"

"Meersha, wait!" pleaded her other brother.

Meersha ignored the insult, plotting her revenge, when suddenly, her ears perked and her eyes landed upon a large patch of green grass. She tilted her head at the sight for, in all of her short life, she had only seen blades of gold and yellow. Quickly snatching this rare opportunity, she crawled into the green tuff curiously, her nose twitching. What lie hidden in this patch, made her gasp. Right in the cub's view, was a small, swirling pool of crystal, clear water. Perhaps it was the cool shivers this pool seemed to coerce down her spine which caused the intake of breath. Or the fact that it had not rained lately, and with no mud encircling its fine borders, it was made clear that this was not an ordinary piece of nature. Whatever it was that made her gasp, she placed her small paws on the edge of the puddle, gazing in awe and fascination at its presence.

"Kasha! Banjija! Meersha!" her mother's voice rang through the night air. "I told you to stay in my sight! Come back this instant!"

But Meersha ignored the lioness's verbal distress, now gentling nosing the surface of the cool liquid. Shivering, Meersha could feel a second chill creep up her back as her fur bristled - something she had never done before. The young lion could do nothing else while the water began to spin and swirl, churning even faster than before. For a moment, she even thought it produced light, yet it soon turned dark, giving the puddle a bleek, eluminating sensation that came right into her, causing her heart to race and her breathing to increase.

"Meersha!" Kinara roared out, closer now, a tone of urgency in her voice.

Still, the cub watched. A second later, something happened: a picture appeared in the water. It was of a frosty night, out in a far off savannah land where the clouds seemed to dip down to accompany the grass. The moon was high and full, though, and somehow was able to shine its reflecting light from the sun, slicing right through the fog. Then, without warning, there was a cat-like creature. Black as the night itself, it snuck around, in any bush, behind any tree it could. Meersha gulped and quivered at the moving pictures in the water, yearning to take a step back, yet her legs wouldn't listen. Suddenly, the unusual animal looked to her! It was as if the whole thing was taking place, right in the water itself. The crimson eyes narrowed as it creeped closer and closer to the surface where she herself was exposed...

"MEERSHA WHITE-FEATHER!" someone abruptly snarled behind her.

Meersha jumped in surprise and tumbled backwards, only to find herself staring up at the angry face of Kinara as she landed on her back. For a moment, the young one pondered about what was scarier: the eyes of the creature in the water, or the eyes of her own mother right then.

"Mama, I - " she started desperately, scrambling to find words. But Kinara grabbed her and turned around, heading up a sloping part of the small cliff and padding up the knoll behind it, muttering muffled words about how her cub's father was going to hear about her wandering, and how she should be ashamed.

~~~

"Meersha," her father growled lowly. "I cannot beleive you wandered away like that."

"But, Dad," said Meersha, defensively. "It was Kasha and Banjija's fault!"

Ashuma sighed and shook his head, before replying, more calmly, "How so?"

"They, um...They made me fall down the cliff!"

Ashuma blinked and looked to Kinara, who sighed as well, turning to look down at her other cubs.

"What?" they both asked at the same time, innocently.

"What happened?" Ashuma firmly questioned, demanding an answer.

They were all now at the den, away from the pride. It was near evening as the sun began to fall, leaving streaks of red, orange and pink in the darkening sky.

"This was so not our fault," growled Banjija, glaring at his sister.

"You didn't answer me." his father replied.

"She was being annoying so we led her near the cliff." exclaimed Kasha, quietly. "She jumped and fell down it...But!" he said, before his parents could react. "she was the one who wandered off!"

Kinara and Ashuma both turned to Meersha, who's ears drooped. "But...but I saw something. I saw grass that was green!"

Her mother, for a second time, sighed and leaned down to nose her. "Yes. Once in a while you'll see patches of green, honey. But you don't go wandering off!"

"But," she went on. "It was in the green grass!"

Ashuma asked curiously, "What was?"

"I...um..." she attempted to the best way to describe it. "Water...Uh...it was like showing me something...!"

"Look, you just don't go off by yourself." Kinara stated.

"You don't believe me, do you? !" she cried, frusterated.

"Why would we believe a zebra?" Banjija laughed, though he quickly regretted it.

Ashuma snarled and nipped at his son, and the cub instently fell silent as his siblings smirked.

"Even if...water shows you something, you don't go off by yourself." Ashuma then ordered. "Is that clear?"

Meersha gave up in trying to argue and convince her parents, and instead nodded, trying to look guilty as she stared at the ground and pawing at a pebble.

"Good."

With that, the leader began to make his way back to the pride. It was at the top of a small hill that he haulted in his tracks, looking back at them, questioningly. Kinara nodded.

"Let's go," she said to her cubs.

"Huh?" asked Kasha. "But what about the den?"

"It's time to move to the main den in the middle of the territory, with the rest of the pride. All the cubs are moving there now," she exclaimed, voice now warm as she grinned.

The three excitedly trailed behind their mother, who followed Ashuma. When they arrived at the main den, perhaps an hour or so later, they curled up with each other to keep warm, surrounded by the other lionesses and their cubs. A choir of crickets sung outside, and there was a light breeze lacing through the lands, only to be stopped by the den itself. This den was more of a cave, and was dug out of the easternmost part of the great knoll in the middle of the territory.

 

VI

Leader Stress

The pride's cubs all slept in the main den from then on, each always nestled into their mother's warm coat. It was Ashuma who always laid at the enterance, and for the mostpart, was found only half-asleep.

Rumors spread about the two rogues, as well as others who kept an eye on the pride, just waiting for Ashuma to lose his guard. But no one ever struck...yet. The thing was, each day this lion grew older, as did the offspring. If someone didn't challange soon, then the cubs would grow and become an addition to the pride. Which some would find appealing, as that would mean more mates, yet others found more threatening, for if they decided to break the White-Feather law, that could also mean more protection for their leader.

Yes, every lioness in the pride knew it was to happen soon. The tension had increasingly grown, seeming to choke everyone in an ongoing sentiment, whether that be fear, or perhaps anger. Even the cubs stirred at the unseen emotions of their parents as they pondered to each other. Older lionesses had seen it happen in their life, if not once, more. It was to happen again. Some silently grieved and even feared what was to come, while others yearned for it to get over with. Still, others felt that it was the right thing to do, for those were the lionesses nearing the age of reproduction, and they did not want to mate with their own father, fearing the results of inbreeding.

Ashuma growled to himself. He continued to age, and the fear of losing the pride climbed higher for him as it began to flow through his veins. Soon, wrinkles below his eyes took place as his fur and ears became tattered, always twitching, always perked. Streaks of gray barely began to show through his mane, caused both by the decrease of youth, and the stress. Sometimes he would be found muttering to himself, about how this was always his pride. At night, he rarely caught sleep, and when he did, he was usually half-awake. Any time he got it fully, the lion dreamt of the days he had conquered the last leader of this pride; Tambi. More often than not, he snarled and growled, kicked and twitched in his rare sleep.

The present leader soon became so paranoid, that he did not talk to anyone, just watched them from atop the Great Knoll in the heart of his territory, which he went on to marking every day. More than once he did so, and in the same places. He stalked the borders, the grounds and the plains, the hills and much more, leaving his scent and scaring off any near animal, even if it was wandering and easy-to-catch prey. Every time anyone went off to the water hole, Ashuma followed. He would always glance behind his back, before moving forward once more, warn muscles rippling beneath his thin coat. Now, he sat on the Great Knoll, watching, waiting for anything and anyone. His physical image appeared wary and old, even when he attempted to seem strong. Ashuma never allowed anyone to wander, always keeping every lioness in his sight.

Before long, he neglected the cubs, though. If one came to play with their father, he would either pad away or bat them off, even if his cuffing was hard enough to make them bleed. Soon, the White-Feather Pride feared for their daughters and sons, always watching their leader stalk back and forth in the same place, or sitting upon the hill, following a lioness, scaring off a vulnurable antelope, marking the territory not once, twice, but at least three times in the same spots.

It was when a little cub named Gatu, snuck over to him playfully, and pounced his father, did the lionesses' fear shoot up. The results of Gatu's motion, had led him to be without his left eye. Ashuma had just hissed at him, and walked off, ignoring his son's cries of agony.

After that, Ashuma was not allowed near the nersery.

"If this goes on, then Ashuma will just leave us himself, he's that insane," growled one of the lionesses.

"If he doesn't, and no one else takes over, then we'll chase him off." Tanda replied, haughtly.

"What are those rogues waiting for?" questioned another, who was grooming her sleeping litter.

The pride - all except Ashuma, who was out marking the territory for the fifth time that day - was in the main den, while the night took over.Their cubs slept, curled up by their mother's stomach, or resting in their forepaws as the lionesses discussed the pride life. All were exausted from the hunt earlier, but none could not let these incidents pass.

"He's just distressed," Bayna said, finishing up cleaning Pashi and Lusala.

"He's just crazy!" Tanda went on.

Bayna shook her head. "Put yourself in his paws; he's about to lose his family."

"But we can't go on like this," said someone.

Another exclaimed, "But if someone else takes over, then our cubs are dead!"

"With the way it's been going, I wouldn't be surprised if our cubs die if Ashuma stays," said a dominant lioness called Helalu.

This surprised everyone, as she was the closest to Ashuma, due to her over powering ways. They all looked at her for a moment, and then the debate went on.

"I don't think Ashuma would do anything to our cubs...purposely that is." said the young, naive Chusuka, curled around her sleeping Toga.

"But remember the Night-Myst Pride in the far east?" Tanda aburptly brought up.

They all perked their ears and listened intently. No one knew, but Meersha peeked out of one eye, before quickly shutting it as she eavesdropped. The female cub laid between her brothers, right at her mother's right side.

"What about them?" Kinara asked, curiously, after no one said anything.

"Well," Tanda continued. "They were a nice pride like us. Their leader was a great lion, but one day, a rogue tried to take over his pride. He didn't allow it. He couldn't. As ignorant as lions are...Anyway, they faught almost every day. Finally the rogue decided to stop, and sneak up on him later, when he was most vulnerable. This is when the present leader began to go crazy, some said. Others in the pride didn't like the idea of it, and so pushed it out of their minds, until one day, the leader became as paronoid as Ashuma is now. Soon, he was so eager to keep his rank and status, that he began killing off the cubs to get his females to mate again."

The cave was instently filled with a rush of gasps. Meersha had even joined in, but kept convincingly still when her mother had blinked down at her. A father, killing his young ones? Rogues did it to other cubs, sure, but the father of the pride itself? It wasn't right. That was breaking the laws of nature. The words of this terrifying story seemed to send shivers down the lionesses' backs.

"I heard it was just a myth," Helalu quickly said.

Tanda shrugged. "It's what I've heard from wandering animals."

Kinara continued to look down fearfully at her little ones, and licked them all. In fact, the whole pride did it, nervously keeping an eyes on their cubs and each other.

"Shashi," a lioness then exclaimed, and they all looked up at the older lion with questioning faces. "What should we do?"

Shashi stayed on the flat rock she had been laying upon as her old eyes fell on everyone in the cave. She seemed so calm, and even yawned once. Shashi was old, and had seen many days. Because of her intellegince, born from her experience, some even thought of her as a mandrill or shaman.

"Ashuma has been our leader for some years now," she explained, sitting up stiffly, due to arthritis and cramped muscles. "And ever since he joined, we made a comitment to be loyal to him."

"But look what he's done to my little Gatu!" cried a lioness, nuzzling her little one.

When people began to argue, Shashi hissed, and they all fell silent once more.

"Please, think of the cubs. You'll wake them up." a lioness pleaded.

"Now, anyone else feel like arguing, or do you want to hear what I have to say?" Still, there was silence. Shashi took a deep breath, before going on. "We keep our word and vow. After all, he gave us our cubs."

"And he's going to soon take them away!" Tanda blurted, only to feel a sence of regret as the shaman glared at her, and her ears drooped as she looked like a naughty cub right then.

Shashi nodded to herself and said, "In letting him be our leader and cub-giver, we made a deal. Now, his time is soon to end, which is the most important time for us to be with him and encourage him. He was, after all, a great leader in his prime. Ashuma has given us three great litters. Now, as the leaders before him, we are to be a loyal pride. As we were to Tambi, Dashu, and all the others."

Everyone looked up to Shashi, listening to her carefully, for she had seen the several leaders in the White-Feather Pride, having even born into it. It was a wonder how she was still alive. In fact, no one knew how old she really was.

"I agree," Kinara then said, and all eyes turned to her. Meersha shifted uncomfortably at the feeling of all stares, even if they weren't looking at her, and she could not see them anyway as her eyes kept closed. She ended up burying her head into her mother's fur, still trying to act asleep as Kinara continued. "Ashuma has been a great leader. He's just nervous, and taking his end to our pride very seriously. Which is what we wanted for a leader: a serious one. Right? This just proves how important we are to him."

"I don't think clawing out the eye of a cub is the way to show it," snarled Gatu's mother's sister.

"Look, you don't have to like it. Even protect your cubs from him if you wish - heck I'm doing that! But still, he does not have very many suns left with us anyway," Kinara exclaimed.

"Who?" asked someone.

Everyone gasped in surprise, turning their heads to see Ashuma entering the den. All the lioness curled protectively around their cubs, but Ashuma didn't crawl very deep in. Instead, as he had been doing for about a month now, he continued to lay at the enterence, gazing out into the distance of the night. "They're coming," he whispered to himself, before resting his giant cranium on his massive forepaws.

All that night, he muttered to himself, his presence causing the lionesses to stay up as well.

In the morning, Ashuma was gone.

"Mama," said a small voice, and Kinara looked down to smile at her daughter.

She licked her. "Yes?"

"Is Daddy OK?"

Kinara blinked in surprise, then sighed. "I...I think he just needs time to himself, Meersha."

"How come he took Gatu's eye?"

Kinara nuzzled Meersha, but did not answer as Banjija and Kasha both awoke. Half of the pride was outside, and the rest was still sleeping, their cubs at their sides.

"C'mon. I'll take you three to the nersery. Then you can have your breakfast there. The party caught a wildebeast lastnight." she exclaimed.

The boys jumped up in excitment.

"My favorite!" Banjija said.

Kinara led them outside into the bright morning, yawning and stretching in the warmth of the bathin sunlight, before dropping them off with Bayna, Tanda and a couple other lionesses at the nersery.

Banjija and Kasha scrambled over to the cubs, growling and whatnot, before pouncing at the remains of a wildebeast carcass. But Meersha sat down at the edge of the sunken land, watching her mother pad out into the grasslands. She glanced at Bayna and the others curiously, before climbing out of the nersery and crawling on her tummy through the crisp grass. Meersha blended right in, but was quickly caught as she accidently hit her head at a lioness's back left paw. The lioness jumped and turned around, staring down at the cub.

"Sis!" cried Chusuka.

"Hiya, sissy," Meersha said innocently, sitting up.

"What are you doing out here?"

"Uh...well..."

"Meesha, did you sneak from the nersery? You know you're not supposed to be out here." her older sibling stated firmly.

Meersha grinned cheekily, but Chusuka picked her up and began carrying her back. "Have you even had breakfast?" she asked, muffled, with a mouthfull. She nodded in responce, only to have the lioness hault in her tracks immediatley set her down and lightly paw at her. "Don't lie, I can smell your hunger."

The little one just rolled over and pawed up at Chusuka. "Chusuka, what is wrong with Daddy?" she quiered before her older sister would have time to scold.

Chusuka blinked, having the same expression as their mom, having not excpected this question. "Well, uh..."

Meersha continued to peer up at her, lying on her back still.

"Well...You need your breakfast, Meersha."

"But I wanna know!"

"Don't worry about it. Now, go have some of that wildebeast."

Chusuka nosed her sister back into the nersery and turned around, walking away.

Meersha huffed.

VII

First Carcass

Before long, the cubs were allowed to be escorted into the savannah. Scorching grasslands and plains would have each one panting, but of course, the aroma of a freshly killed zebra, antelope or whatever nature could dish out for the hunting party, would keep the little ones's ears perked and noses twitching anxiously. They were the last ones to fill their bellies, but the offspring still enjoyed the walks to the carcass. Soon after that, they were even brought on hunts.

The hunting party was led by Helalu, who was now stalking a zebra herd. In fact, the group had been tracking the family of striped equines for a couple suns now.

"Mom, I'm hungry," complained Banjija to Kinara.

These days, the young were supposed to follow in the tracking process, so that they could watch the action of the kill itself.

Kinara nodded. "Sometimes it takes a while to get our food."

"What if you don't get it?" asked Kasha, curiously.

"Sometimes we can scavange," his mother responded, eyes half closed as they padded through the stiff, golden grass, trying to keep up with the rest of the group.

Meersha flinched as her stomach seemed to twist in pain, hunger eating her up inside. Luckily the yearning for water had been satisfied just a few minutes back at a small water hole.

Suddenly, the cub blinked, as if what she was seeing was a mirage. But all the cubs of the pride were gazing up at them now, eyes widened in curiousity. The adults just carried on, though, staring ahead, as if what they were passing was nothing but normal.

"What about those?" Kasha finally asked, pointing a paw to the near group of elephants.

Kinara shook her head. "No. We never hunt those. Unless one is by himself, and usually it has to be really young or old or sick."

"Have you ever had elelphant?" questioned Meersha, trying her best to ignore the hunger deep in her belly.

Kinara then nodded. "Yes. Once, when I was your age. We were tracking down a sick baby bull. He had wandered off from his mother and the group...That just proves to you, always stay close. Got it? All of you."

"We're not babies anymore," huffed Banjija.

The lioness chuckled, watching her growing cubs. They were about a third her size now. Kinara was greatful she got to stay this long with her little ones. By now, she was sure that the rouges would've striked.

"Stop blabering back there!" called Helalu. "I can see them over this knoll! Hurry up!"

"Here comes lunch." Banjija muttered to himself, a satisfied smirk upon his face, fur bristling.

The little family trailed behind the group up the hill, only to look down at the many zebras. This was the first time Meersha and the cubs had ever seen prey whole and alive. She licked her lips, staring at them, carefully lying on her stomach and copying her mother, who began to crawl forward.

"Mom," whispered Banjija.

"Shh," Kinara hissed at her son.

"Where's Helalu?" he asked, despite her shush.

She snapped at him once and he became quiet. "Just watch."

Meersha stayed yards behind her damè and three other lionesses who were sneaking up on the zebras, inching closer. She felt the thrill and adrenaline rushing through her veins as she attempted to hold her breath. Even if Meersha was meant to only watch, the cub and her siblings, as well as the others focused, copying exactly what their mothers did. Helalu, and about four other lionesses seemed to be missing now, though.

Finally, Tanda leapt out, and the startled zebras rushed out over the plain like a disturbed river of black a white, thunderous hooves pounding against the dry ground. Meersha jumped up from her spot, trying to get a good view, but, like her peers, was coerced to follow instead, in order to keep the hunting party and prey in sight. Just a few moments into the chase, Helalu and the other three missing lionesses had come from the south, on the other side of the running herd now. Eyes from each member of the pride fell onto each other, before looking to the dominant female, and Helalu made a gesture. Suddenly, they quickly seperated an old zebra from his family. Meersha could hear his cry of agony shoot through the atmosphere, bucking once as he struggled to catch up, but the seven hunters were on all sides of the prey now, and the many cubs were not too far behind, romping through savannah.

Meersha kept one paw after the other, growling as she listened and watched with fascination, even licking her lips once. She was the first of the cubs, just a few yards behind her mother and the others. And then...

Helalu pounced. She was able to slow their potential meal, allowing the others jump on it, and they soon brought it down. The party dug in, just as the rest of the family was walking slowly from the hill, including Ashuma and Shashi. All the cubs came running eagerly to the carcass, endaevouring to get in and snap at the meat. The lionesses either ignored them, shoved them away, or hissed at the young ones. For once, they were regected and even neglected when it came to the food.

"What's with this?" asked a cub, plopping down, hurt in his voice.

"I don't know," growled Banjija. "We should have first pecks."

"Cubs are last," someone stated firmly. Ashuma. He came stalking over and pushed away some of the females, digging in.

"He didn't even hunt and he gets it first!" complained Kasha.

"Lions don't usually hunt. The lionesses do." advised Meersha as she gazed warily at her family. Kinara had explained this to her just the day before while still tracking.

Banjija questioned, "Then what's the point of us guys learning to hunt?"

"Yeah," Toga said with a huff.

The cubs were soon attempting to grab their fill again, all except Gatu and Meersha. She sat, tail curling around her body as she watched her family chow down, and the younger ones try to eat. Meersha sighed, knowing her time would eventually come to dig into the meat. Poor, little Gatu would've been with the rest, if he had been so frightened of his own father now.

"What is it?" she asked Gatu then, paws shifting in the dirt curiously. "Why aren't you with the rest?"

Gatu looked at her with his right eye.

"Oh," she said, regretfully as she inwardly cringed.

"Why aren't you eating? Or trying to?" he then replied.

The female cub shrugged, staring at the brown-gold one.

Finally, the lionesses finished, along with Ashuma. They laid down, tummies bulging in the sunlight as they waited for the cubs to finish. Soon, the scavangers closed in, and the pride headed back.

Each time they hunted, it was the same thing; the cubs watched and coppied the tracking and stalking, only to run after their mothers who were the ones to get the prey. Then the little ones would try and eat, but were left last, even after the paranoid - and even sometimes frightening - Ashuma. Of course, Meersha and Gatu waited patiently together. Sometimes the pride was not successful, and so would have to turn back. Other times their tracking lasted for days, and still, other hunting nights they were left to eat what was left of a different carcass, temporarily turning into scavanagers. But the pride was greatful that their cubs were growing, without being interrupted by the rogues or even their own leader.

Soon, the cubs themselves were able to help bring small prey down. But always with the grownup lionesses doing most of the work. In fact, a cub sometimes only managed to jump up on a falling denizen of the savannah, that had already been struck by the hunting lionesses. On their own, back at the Great Knoll in the territory center, cubs tried hunting birds and rodents. At the water hole, they occasionally caught a fish. That didn't last long, though, as two cubs were taken by the crockadiles, and one was killed by an angry hippo.

By then end of the next month, another had been sick and died, even with the help of Shashi. Still, a week after that, the only remaining cubs were Meersha, Banjija, Kasha, Toga, Gatu, Pashi, Lusala, Tokto, Shap, Daba, Naynana, Bondu and Kiku.

 

IIX

One Eyed-Freak

Life went on, but it seemed to be more daunting each day, and each of those days, Ashuma was growing sicker with stress. The pride had barely seen him for some time, except after successful hunts, or when the lion was atop the Great Knoll, eyes scanning the horizion.

It was only when the growing cubs were near early adolescence, did the leader begin to reveal himself again. Banjija, Kasha, Toga, Gatu and Bondu would some day, soon show signs of a tiny mane. But, compared to the adults, they were still small, and definitely considered cubs. In fact, most were only half the size of their damès.

Ashuma was now seen frequently again. He snarled at each of his passing sons. His last two litters, he didn't take too kindly to his adolescent sons either - then again, most lions didn't. But he had never shown the deadly threats he was now using upon his third litter. It was even more astonishing that he would act like this, as none had not yet started adolescence. It was different with these cubs now, though.

The nersery was rarely needed anymore, and they would almost always go on the hunts. Each one became slightly independent, and the females looked more like their mothers than ever - just half the size - of course, signs of cubhood still decorated their faces and bodies.

One day, Meersha would be found in the shade under an acarica, tail swishing back and forth as she laid next to her mother, for she - like the others - was still tentative, even though they had grown much. In fact, more than half the time they would be found around their mothers, and the rest of the time away, yet in the eye, saftey and protection of the pride.

"Mother," Banjija said one day as he padded over to Kinara and Meersha. "Kasha's being annoying. He won't shut his mouth about how he's gonna take over the pride and whatnot!"

This was just another sign showing how their cubhood was almost completely still present, as it should be.

Kinara rolled her eyes and got up, shaking off a few twigs and pieces of grass.

"If he doesn't shut up," Banjija went on. "I'm gonna let 'im have it!"

"No one's letting anyone have anything." growled his mother, sternly.

Meersha sat up, watching with curiousity, eyes sparkling as she attempted to surpress a smirk.

"Then just tell him t' shut up!"

"Why don't you shut up?" suggested Meersha, and she grinned.

"Meersha, hush," Kinara demanded, glancing down at her daughter.

But Banjija hissed and growled, pointed ears folding back while glaring at Meersha, who just snickered back.

"You two!" snarled Kinara, just as her other son came running up.

"OK, I've got it! When Dad let's me have the pride," he exclaimed, but Banjija smacked him with a paw, scratches left on the male's face due to extended claws.

"Ah!" and Kasha pounced his brother with a thrusting hiss.

"ENOUGH!" Kinara cried, and pried them away from each other with her forepaws. "If you're going to act like cubs, then I'll treat you like them! Kasha, enough with your talk about taking over the pride."

"But-"

"I said enough! And you, Banjija," she turned to the brown cub who shyed away slightly. "I don't ever want to see you raking your brother like that! Understand?"

"He didn't rake me!" Kasha defensively yelled, trying keep the tough act. "That was a baby scratch!"

"Do-you-under-stand?" Kinara asked, almost threateningly, though doing her best to hold her temper.

Finally, the two settled down and nodded, saying quietly, "Yes." as they blushed, feeling the eyes of giggling young lions around them, including Meersha. Both felt like tiny cubs once more.

"Shut up," Banjija muttered to his sister as he and his brother padded to the other side of the Hill.

Kinara heaved a sigh and sat down by her daughter again. "I don't know what I'm gonna do with them."

Just then, Shashi came over. She smiled and Kinara returned the expression.

"Having a mother and daughter kinda thing?" she asked.

Kinara shook her head. "My sons still act like little cubs."

Shashi chuckled. "But you've forgotten, that's what they are."

"I'm gonna go get a drink," Kinara then said after an iritated mumble, getting up and padding off, leaving the shaman and her cub to chat.

"So, what's been going on in your life, young Meersha?" Shashi warmly asked.

Meersha shrugged, before aburptly gasping. "I just remembered," she said, more to herself.

"What?"

Ever since the night, a few full moons back, she had seen the picture in the water, Meersha had forgotten about it, especially with the way her father was acting.

"Shashi," she hesitantly exclaimed.

"Yes?"

"What does it mean if you see a picture of a...uh...the night...?"

The old lioness raised an unseen brow. "What do you mean?"

"OK. Say you were looking in a puddle of water and suddenly there's the picture of something."

"Like a reflection?" Shashi suggested.

She shook her head. "No. It wasn't my reflection...and it moved. It was a whole different place."

"You saw this?"

Meersha inwardly gaped at her own words. "Uh, no...but I had a dream about it," she quickly lied. "So what does it mean?"

"Hmmm," Shashi thought aloud, before saying, "It could mean someone is trying to tell you something. From faraway."

"But how? I mean, I didn't even know it...in my dream." the cub added.

"Meersha, did you really dream it?" a tone of suspision overlapping her voice.

Meersha nodded. "But, whatever. It was probably nothing." and she padded off.

"Whatever it was, Meersha," Shashi called. "Don't go back to it! When it's benighted and unknown, it's never good!"

~~~

"H-hey, st-stop!" someone cried.

Meersha, now on the other side of the Great Knoll, was cocking her head, gazing at a group of cubs, two of which were continuessly headbutting Gatu.

"What's wrong?" one called Bondu said. "Don't like to play?"

Another said, "Maybe this'll teach 'im to talk right,"

The group laughed as the two carried on with their actions, causing the cub with the one eye to fall backwards in the grass.

Meersha's fur bristled in the golden sunlight, before she haughtly snarled, "Hey!" jumping between Bondu and Gatu. "What are you doing to him?"

"Trying t' teach him how to talk!" and they laughed again.

"Toga, shut it," she snapped. "I'll tell my sister on you."

"Aw, ya wouldn't Meersh? I'm your nephew!" Toga insisted.

Meersha rolled her eyes as Gatu looked fearfully at them. A couple cubs had gone off, but Bondu stayed.

"Where ya goin', Toga?" Bondu asked as Toga padded away, glaring at nothing.

But Meersha hissed and batted at Bondu. "Leave Gatu alone. He can't help the way he talks!"

"But he's a freak! Look, he's got one eye!"

"It was Dad's fault,"

"Y-yeah," Gatu then huffed, puffing out his chest as he staggered up.

"Shut up, one-eyed-freak! You deserved it,"

Meersha started forward, toward Bondu, who took a step back. The remaining cubs were watching, half heartedly waiting for a fight. Bondu hissed, and Meersha returned it. Not just her brothers knew how good of a wrestler she was. Bondu finally shook his head, before solemly walking away. While the others groaned at the absence of a brawl and began to scattered, Meersha smirked, then turned to Gatu.

"Are you OK?" she asked.

Gatu nodded and replied, "Yeah. Th-thank you, M-meersha,"

"You're welcome,"

As she turned to go, Gatu said, "You-you didn't have t-to do th-that,"

The female cub shrugged as she continued on her way.

 

IX

The Rogues' Revelation

 

 

Meersha sighed. It was night and, whenever the cub was able to find sleep, she'd dream about the creature in the water, and would always awake with a start, breath thrusting out uneasily as beads of sweat decorated her fur in the glittering moonlight that danced around on the cave floor. One question always popped into her mind, though: why did she now remember about it?

Finally, in the middle of the night, the little one gathered her wits and growled to herself, "I have t' go back..."

With that, she got up, and very slowly crept around her family and the pride. It was a good thing Ashuma was still out that night, doing the Great Kings know what. She would not notice that Gatu opened his eyes as she slunked past...and he followed...

~~~

Meersha stalked out into the cool night air, letting the swaying grass brush against her legs. She padded quietly around the hillside, eyes carefully glancing about in case she stumbled in the presence of Ashuma. Minutes later, the small lion found the familiar cliff she had pounced and fell over a few months ago. Meersha smirked to herself, recalling how big it had once looked. She leapt down, paws easily finding the ground. When she was once more at the tuff of green, the cub stood there, watching it with awe. Finally, she stepped into the patch of long grass, and found the puddle. There, Meersha let her eyes wander down into the water.

~~~

Gatu trailed just a few yards behind, sneaking on his belly, the way his mother and the other lionesses had shown him and the cubs. His ears and nose twitched, but he was careful, even with one eye.

Soon, he came near Meersha, and sat up to cock his head, for Meersha was facing the other way, watching something. In fact, it looked as if she was frozen like a statue. Slowly, he inched his way over to her, only to hesitantly whisper, "M-meersha?" No answer. She didn't even look back. "Meersha?" Taking a deep breath, he reached out a paw and lightly batted it at her.

"AHH!" Meersha's voice suddenly rang out, causing Gatu to jump back in fright.

"Meersha! W-what's wrong?" he cried.

But Meersha stayed in the same place, paws planted to the earth.

~~~

Back at the den, Banjija had been awake, gazing at the den wall, when he looked up, hearing the scream. As the cub's ears perked, he found his sister was gone. Taking a quick gasp, He was about to wake his mother, when a thought rushed through his head. If something's up, I better check it out. After all, I'm almost an adult, and this'll show Kasha that'd I'd be a better leader anyway, so I better just take care of things myself. Quickly, the ignorant cub snuck past the sleeping pride, and out into the night.

A cold of rush made him shiver, but he sniffed the ground, quickly discovering his sister's scent, and following it. But, as he started out, he stopped and blinked, finding another familiar smell. For a moment, he pondered, then snarled to himself.

"Gatu!" he furiously hissed, before taking off the way his sibling had gone.

~~~

Meersha gasped as she peered down into the water, watching it swirl as it had done when she was younger. As it did so, it caught her gaze, and would not let it free while a frosty night took place again, where the same creature was creeping about. Desperately, she attempted to go, but found herself captive by an invisable force. What was it? Fear? Suddenly something touched her back and she screamed, for, right as that happened, the creature, as black as the night itself, came out from behind a baobob. It moved swiftly, but before she could study it anymore, or even move, it began to charge towards her.

"No!" she cried, right as it leapt.

Suddenly, Meersha was pounced. But not from that animal. For a split second, she could see the moon and the stars lighting up the sky, before her cranium was coerced against the earth, along with her torso as she and the pouncer went tumbling. The body was small and covered in fur, but she could not find who it was until they finally - and greatfully - came to a stop. When Meersha's vision stopped swirling, she looked up into the frightened face of Gatu, who stared down at with his one purple eye.

"M-meersha," he finally said, relief overlapping the terror in his voice. "W-what h-happened?"

She blinked, and before she could say anything, there was a snarl, and Gatu was thrust sideways.

"Get off my sister!" yelled Banjija, outraged. He turned to Meersha and exclaimed, "Are you all right?"

Meersha quickly staggered up and batted at her brother. "I'm fine. I-"

"You!" interrupted the cub as he glared at Gatu, taking a step forward.

Gatu got up, taking a step back in reaction to his.

What had happened? But Meersha could not ask the questions she yearned to find the answers to, not right then, when her brother was going to tear Gatu's throat out."No, Banjija!" cried Meersha before she could help it, pushing herself between the two. "It's not what you think. I had-"

But before she could explain, her brother had leapt over her, and landed on Gatu. "I'll rip your other eye out!" he snarled, abruptly raking his claws against the other cub's face.

"Banjija!" Meersha snarled, and headbutted her brother hard in the ribs.

He went rolling over. But, before anyone could do or say anything, a roar shot through the atmosphere, causing all three cubs to look up frantically.

"What was that?" asked Banjija, sitting up quickly.

"Dad!" Meersha instantly cried.

It had come from near the den. The trio scampered up the sloping part of the cliff, then up the Great Knoll, only to set eyes upon three quarreling lions.

"W-what are th-they doing?" stammered Gatu.

The young ones stood on the top of their beloved Great Knoll, watching with horror.

"The rogues," exclaimed Banjija. "They're fighting!"

Yet they did not fully understand how life threatening this was, as he yelled, "Go Dad!" and Meersha cheered, "Yeah! Ya can beat 'em, Dad!"

At the den, Kinara heard the yells and gasped, finding that only one of her cubs was in the den. The lionesses had been at the enterence, watching, but now she was passing it, looking up the hill to see her son and daughter. Glancing at the deadly fight, she quickly ran up the hill.

"Mom?" Kasha warily asked as had she run by, leaving him in the back of the den.

The lioness pushed herself up sloping land, panting, but she did not allow herself to take her eyes off her cubs. When she finally made it to the top, she quickly caught her breath before yelling in both in fury and relief, "Banjija! Meersha! My cubs. Come, we must leave."

"But-" her son started.

"Now!"

She began to usher them down the hill to the east, where the main den was. But, as she glanced at the fight again, the lioness inhaled deeply, stomach filling up with knots.

Ashuma and the two rogues were caught in their brawl, dust and chunks of the ground flying out. It didn't last long, though. The rogues easily got him, smacking him hard in the jaw. He roared in pain - or tried to it. It was a sort of roar and whimper, due to the agony of the now-half-connected jaw. But Ashuma, choking in his pride and blood, did not give up quite yet.

Kinara did anything she could to take her eyes off the fight and push her little ones into saftey, but if her mate did not survive, then there would only be danger. She barely move as her body did not listen to her brain.

Ashuma was able to snarl, blood dripping from his mouth as he threw off one of the lions, causing it to roll into the other, and they both fell. The rogues shot up again, when suddenly, the one who looked like Kovu, was once more on the older lion's back, digging teeth into his neck. Ashuma fell. The leader was dead.

 

X

Fleeing

"No," Kinara cried.

Her two cubs and Gatu stopped suddenly as she did, causing them to fall over. Her body was shaking as she watched the lions devoir her loving mate. Something touched her back leg, and the lioness finally looked back at her young ones, expression full of regreting shock.

"What...happened to Dad?" asked Banjija, a look of pure terror on his face right then.

She nosed all three forward, proding them to go faster, but the other way now, and replied, "Keep going. Go to the west, all of you."

"But-but why?" Banjija coughed as he was pushed.

"Just go. You remember your old den?" Meersha and he nodded. "Good. Go there and hide. I'll meet you there later. And whatever you do," she hissed as the ushered them along. "Don't go outside."

Kinara turned back around, heading down the hill again, to the main den.

"Wh-where i-is she going?" Gatu asked.

Neither of the cubs answered, nor did they know. They just obeyed their mother's demands, and continued west, down the Great Knoll and into the flat plains.

~~~

Kinara frantically tore into the den, pushing passed the crestfallen lionesses and their terrified offspring.

"Mom!" cried Kasha as he looked up.

"My Kasha," she said, relieved, but she knew the escape wasn't over. "Hurry, Kasha."

"Where are we going?" he asked as she led him to the enterence of the den.

Kinara halted, though, seeing the two rogues heading over to the enterence, blood hanging from their flat muzzles. Kasha shyed back, behind his mother, as did the others. Kinara snarled protectively, just as the rest of the pride did, desperately trying to keep themselves between the new leaders and their cubs. Even Shashi joined. But, because there was half of the pride outside now, the one lion who looked like Scar stayed out of the den as his companion stalked in.

"Hello!" called the one who was now in the cave, almost happily, ignoring the stains on his own lips and fur. "I am Chaska, your new leader! And, as your new leader, no little cubs are allowed in my path...that aren't mine that is."

Right then, Chaska snatched a near cub and snapped its neck with ease, before even his mother could do anything.

"Bondu!" cried the mother. "My little...You!" She jerked her head from Bondu's lifeless body to the killer, and before she could stop herself, the lioness pounced, raking his face with her claws.

Every cub was now watching, innocent eyes wide, for they had not experienced this before, nor had they even expected this. The ones outside were having their part as well.

"Kin," whispered Bayna in fright. "What do we do?"

"Mom," mewed Kasha, just like a baby again, the leader in himself gone.

Kinara was now backed against the wall of the den, gaping at Chaska, who went after each cub, no matter how many wounds were added to his body. She had gone through this once before, and suddenly the memories flashed back. It was her second litter she had had with Tambi. Chusuka had been one of her cubs. In fact, Chusuka was the only one in her own litter who had survived the day Ashuma had taken over.

Suddenly, Kinara shook her head, before swirling around and pawing furiously at the back of the den, chunks of dirt and loose rock falling. She could not let this happen again.

"Where's Chusuka?" she finally asked Bayna, quietly, while she worked.

Bayna turned to her, tears in her eyes. "Outside," she managed to choke.

Lusala and Pashi were under their mother, fur bristling as they endeavored to, if anything, push themselves into her leg.

Finally, Kinara had made the hole big enough for Kasha and the others to climb through. "Go," she hissed at her son, and nudged her head under him, helping him through. His large body strained her neck, for over the months, he and the others had grown much, but she would do anything for them. "Go to the north, where your old den is and wait for me there."

The cub nodded when he had climbed out. As he began to run, Bayna and Kinara pushed Lusala through, only to have the female cub cry out. Right outside, the other rogue had pounced upon Kasha, easily breaking his neck, before turning to Lusala and padding forward.

"No!" Bayna cried, and the lioness pushed herself against the den wall, thrusting a paw through the hole and outside, claws extended as she slashed at nothing.

Lusala was able to pass right under him as he was destracted by the pathetic attempts. But Pashi had gotten through the hole much too soon and, instead of going after Lusala, who was now running west, she was raked in the face.

"Pashi!" Bayna and Kinara both yelled.

With anger and rage, the two lionesses tried to strike up at the lion through the den, who just turned around to stalk off to any other cubs.

"Kasha!" Kinara sobbed, seeing her son's limp and bloodied body, lying there in the cold night.

 

~~~

"No." growled Meersha firmly.

"But if we just peek..." suggested Banjija.

"Mom said t' stay here! No matter what!" Meersha hissed.

"But why? I mean, why did we have t' leave?" he asked.

"Maybe you didn't get it straight, but Dad died! Now...now who knows what's gonna happen t' us?"

At first, the cubs had been choked in their shock at the sight of their father dying, but it had not been as bad as it would've been if they had not gone on so many hunts. After all, they watched death almost every week...though not from their own family. It was the journey to their old den that let each think about Ashuma and the brawl that had led him to his early demise...Or was it early? Was it not fate that led him to it? The other cubs? The chase of every lion who had become a leader, and every cub born from him?

Meersha had kept her eyes forward, and all were silent. The bloodshed was being left behind at the Great Knoll while they had traveled out to their birthing den. She recalled the times when she was younger, when she felt scared from the night - a thunderstorm, perhaps a sound outside - and she and her brothers would always find relief in the warm saftey of that den, nuzzling deep into their mother's coat, listening to her purring lullabies. If she and her siblings had been in a fight, then they would seperate themselves from each other there, each one finding a place near the dirt walls to mumble angrily under their breaths. The main den at the Great Knoll was great, but their own birthing den was something very special. In fact, Kinara - who had given birth to every one of her cubs in that exact den - had been born there herself, carried out into the world by a lioness who was now gone from age. Nevertheless, memories would be held from the den each cub was born into from every pride...from all prides.

The mourning in Meersha's soul, had soon be soothed by that special den that she had not been to for months. It was in there, where the three huddled together, fighting the agony, fright and the cold. Now, it was morning.

"B-but," Gatu said. "W-what about M-mom?"

"Yeah, and our mom," Banjija said.

Meersha shook her head sadly. "Mom said she'd come back to us, remember?"

"B-but wh-what about m-my mom?" Gatu questioned with fear.

Banjija hissed and smacked him across the face. "You're lucky you're even in here with us!"

"Banjija!" Meersha was about to yell that, but instead, it wasn't her voice.

"Mom!" she and Banjija cried out.

Kinara came limping over to them, her fur matted in crusting blood and her left ear slightly torn. The two ran out, but she hissed, and so they climbed back into the den. Kinara climbed in after them. Now that they were bigger, the den was more cramped than it had been before.

"Banjija, don't you act like that," she grumbled, obviously not in the mood to put up with foolishness from her cub.

"Mom," said Meersha, rubbing up against her mother's leg. "What happened? And where's Kasha?"

"A-and my mo-mother...?" Gatu purred.

Kinara sighed and shook her head, expression now distant as she gazed at the floor of the den. There was silence. Finally, she laid down.

"We've been waiting here, just like you said," Banjija exclaimed. "All night!"

When Kinara looked at them, she tried to find the right words. What she said was, "I need you two - and Gatu - to stay here some more." though her mind was not yet made up.

"But- "

"No, Banjija." and she licked him.

"But we've been staying here forever!" he complained.

Meersha hissed, but Kinara just shook her head. "Yes...you're right, my son. So, actually, now," and she looked up, sniffing the air and her voice grew frantic. "Now you must leave."

"What?" they all yelled.

"Now. All of you. The three of you have to leave and never come back."

"But-" This time it was Meersha.

"Meersha, no. You, Banjija and Gatu have to leave." Yes. This was it. The lioness had made up her mind now.

"Why?"

"Because...We have new pride leaders now. They wouldn't want you to stay..."

With that, Kinara couldn't help a small tear trickle down her face as she whispered to no one, "If only they could've come later. Just a little later, then at least I would've still had my daughter."

Meersha blinked as she tilted her head, before rubbing against her mother again. "Mom. What are you talking about?"

"Things happen, my little Meersha. Now I need you to be strong...You shouldn't have to do this as well, like a male, but you haven't even started adolescence yet. There's no reason for you to stay if you're too young to breed...without being forced." she added. "Now, I want all three of you to listen to me. I love you very much," She nuzzled them all, even Gatu. "Gatu, your mother loves you, too. But you cannot be with her anymore. Don't ask why. When you're old enough and have your own pride - you too, Banjija - then you'll understand."

Banjija couldn't help a proud grin at the thought. Would he get to have a pride before Kasha? That would show him...

"Grow strong, all of you. You can't stay with us anymore. So, go off and find another life."

"But what about Kasha?" Banjija then questioned, tail swishing to a fro as he still imagined the look on his brother's face if he did get a pride first.

"Do you remember the stories I told you, about how the lions of the past are up in the stars?" Meersha and Banjija both nodded. "Well Kasha, and your father, and the other cubs are up there now."

Meersha gasped, as did her living brother. The color drained from Banjija's face, and he was once more struck in emotional pain. His brother was dead, and all he could think about was getting a pride? And his father as well was gone...Regret made him flinch inwardly.

Kinara licked her two remaining cubs. "Now, leave...But, Meersha," she then said. "You might be able to find another pride, once you're just another month or two older."

"Huh?"

"When one or two more full moons has past, then you can join a pride...a different pride." she added.

"Why can't I be with you? And Bayna, and Shashi and the others in this pride?" Meersha asked, vision blurred with tears as she swallowed the forming lump in her throat.

"Our new leaders came just a little too early," her mother answered, but knew none of the cubs would understand. Not now at least. "The White-Feather Pride doesn't need you anymore. Now, be off."

As Banjija and Gatu staggered out of the den, Meersha said, "But why did Chusuka get to stay?"

Kinara shook her head. "Fate has a different path for you, my little one."

She helped her daughter out of the saftey of the den. All her memories of cubs were being coerced from her - cubhood itself was torn from Meersah, her brother and Gatu.

"I'll lead you to the northwestern borders. Then you must be on your own...Quickly."

The four of them began northwest, leaving the White-Feather Pride behind...leaving their family behind. Soon, they came to the invisible borders. Kinara sniffed the ground, now smelling the scent of the new leaders instead of Ashuma's.

"This is it," she warily stated, before licking all three of them. "Goodbye..."

"Mom!" Banjija suddenly yelled, right as something came at them.

Kinara swirled around, calling over her shoulder, "Go! I'll stall him!"

With those words, Kinara pounced Chaska, snarling. Luckily he was the only one who had followed. The other was still back at the pride.

 

To Be Continued - Part II: The Adolescent is being revised and Part III: The Adult is still being written.

 

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